Of course, we all know what happened in the years following Gingrichs ascension. Gingrich led a Republican revolution that both stifled and, at times, visibly angered President Clinton. Without Gingrichs leadership, I doubt the Republican Party would occupy the position that it does today.
Much like Newt Gingrich, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean wasnt cut out to be president. However, Dean has found a much more powerful role as the leader of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a position he was overwhelmingly elected to last month.
Also like Gingrich, Dean is a galvanizing figure. He and former campaign manager Joe Trippi are responsible for one of the most massive grassroots movements in the history of the nation. This success is thanks in no small part to Deans revolutionary use of the Internet as a means to raise funds and as a participatory outlet.
Despite its losses, the Dean campaign revitalized a stagnating Democratic primary and brought millions into the Democratic Party. Now, like Gingrich, Dean is in the position to change the course of the future and to present a unified front against the Republican-dominated government.
The gauntlet was thrown down almost immediately for Dean, as he stated in his acceptance speech, The Republicans know the America they want and they are not afraid to use any means to get there. But there is something that this Administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe.
Perhaps this is the reason that those who admire Dean were so adamant about his ascension to party chair. Dean, as he had shown in the primaries, is a fighter.
While the majority of the other candidates were competing to be Republican-lite, Dean openly opposed the War in Iraq, never changed a heartfelt position and refused to apologize for being himself. It still seems as though Dean is one of the only Democrats willing to stand up and resolutely say no to President George W. Bushs agenda.
All that is sure to change however, as the attacks that are undoubtedly coming begin to roll in. During the primaries, Republican spin masters painted Dean as dovish, fiscally irresponsible and liberal. In actuality, Dean is one of the most centrist Democrats in the party, certainly less liberal than a John Kerry or a Hillary Clinton.
It may surprise even some Dean supporters to hear that Dean is staunchly in favor of gun-owners rights, and that he balanced the budget in his home state of Vermont more consistently than any Governor in its history.
But, of course, due to his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War and the startling efficiency with which the Republican spin machine instantly translated to the public that any opposition to the war was an opposition to the troops, Dean was trounced in favor of a blander, safer candidate.
As the election proved, safer isnt always better. Ever the risk-taking man, Dean has continued in that vein as DNC party chair. Perhaps his most imposing challenge will be changing the party so that it might be competitive throughout America and not just the coasts.
We can change this party, Dean said in his Inaugural Address. But only by working together and competing in all 50 states, by working together and becoming a national party, working together at the local level.
As John Kerry would tell you, its always a risk to take a firm position on anything, but Dean truly sees this as the future of the Democratic Party. On Deans former Political Action Committee (PAC) website, www.democracyforamerica.com, he asserts that everyone would be a Democrat if they could just hear an undiluted and propaganda-free version of the party platform.
While the purity of the message may not be up to Deans standards, Dr. Deans drive to get that message out there assures that everyone in every state will be hearing it soon. Maybe thats the real reason the Republican spin machine is so deathly afraid of Howard Dean. Like Newt Gingrich before him, Dean represents a great hope for his party. He is a firebrand, a fighter and the antithesis of a quitter.
It seems that those who tell the truth in Washington are the most feared and the least respected, eventually and inevitably vilified by both sides of the aisle. Whatever the future holds for Dean, the timing of his election couldnt be more advantageous. The Republican Social Security Privatization bill reeks of defeat the same way Clintons welfare reform bill did back when Gingrich was Speaker of the House, and we all know how that turned out.
Dean has succeeded in taking his party back; time will tell if he is successful at taking the country back for the Democrats.